Reds look to stablize rotation vs. Nationals

WASHINGTON — The Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen has the fourth-best best ERA in the National League and the offense boasts five players with at least 10 home runs, and three with at least 16.

So by process of elimination that leaves starting pitching as the main culprit for a recent slide that has included 13 losses in 14 games, including an 18-3 bruising on Saturday to the Washington Nationals.

As the Reds try to rebound from their second-most lopsided loss of the season on Sunday, manager Bryan Price feels help is on the way and may have already arrived.

Luis Castillo pitched well in his major league debut Friday and Price said Saturday he will stay in the rotation.

Also, Brandon Finnegan is slated to return from the disabled list Monday in St. Louis after missing over two months with a strained left shoulder.

“That is what we have been waiting for. Those are big moves for us. We have been battling and scrapping. Now we are starting to get healthy with our starters,” said Price, who has used the term stabilize the rotation several times this weekend.

Price certainly hopes things stabilize after Saturday’s loss when Homer Bailey allowed eight runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings during his first start since last August.

One consistent for the Reds rotation is right-hander Scott Feldman (5-5, 4.20), who has the only win by a Cincinnati starter since June 7.

He will start the series finale Sunday in Washington against Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark. Feldman did not figure in the decision in a 7-3 win Monday as he allowed six hits and two runs in six innings at Tampa Bay.

Feldman will take the mound for a team who has allowed 121 RBI and pitched to a 5.27 ERA. He is part of a rotation whose ERA increased to 6.20 ERA after the Reds allowed double-digit runs for the 11th time.

While Feldman leads the team with 15 starts and innings (83.2), Castillo is the sixth rookie to start for the Reds and Bailey is the 12th overall starting pitcher.

No wonder Price uses the term “stabilize the rotation.”

Feldman has made two starts in his career at Washington: with Houston in 2014 and with the Chicago Cubs in 2013. He is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings and has allowed 11 hits with 11 strikeouts and six walks in two career starts against the Nationals.

Roark (6-4, 4.88 ERA) made two starts against the Reds in 2014, one in 2015 and two again last year. He is 1-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts against the Reds in his career, which began in 2014.

Current Reds are 17-for-67 (.254) against him with no homers.

Speedy Billy Hamilton is 0-for-10 against Roark in his career. He snapped a 0-for-20 skid Saturday with a single in the fifth and Price said he would consider moving him out of the leadoff spot if need be.

Roark did not figure in the decision in an 8-7 loss Monday in Miami to the Marlins. But he did not pitch well and wasn’t happy after the shortest start of his career as he gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings.

“I’m (ticked) off.” the right-hander told reporters after the game. “You get a six-run lead and you give it up. That’s pathetic on my part.”

Washington manager Dusty Baker has had to deal with a poor bullpen most of the year. And now starters Joe Ross and Roark have been less than stellar, though Ross got the win Saturday while allowing one run in seven innings.

“We tried to stick with him as long as we could,” Baker told reporters of Roark. “Because we didn’t want to just tear up our whole bullpen at that time.”